Bnei mitzvah group pays memorial tribute to refugee from Nazism they met during course

Jewish Care group dedicates graduation ceremony to 'fun and engaging' William Kaczynski


Participants in Jewish Care’s latest bnei mitzvah programme have dedicated their graduation ceremony to the memory of William Kaczynski, a refugee from Nazism they met during the early part of the five-month programme.

Mr Kaczynski, who died in March, aged 82, was a tenant at Jewish Care’s Selig Court in Golders Green. His family fled Berlin after Kristallnacht and he came to England in 1939. His father, who was awarded the Iron Cross for service during the First World War, survived the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

His father had been in the millinery trade and Mr Kaczynski followed him into the profession, helping to establish the largest hat factory in Europe.

Jewish Care’s Rachel Miller told the JC that the bnei mitzvah group met him at a session where Selig Court tenants shared memories of their own bar- and batmitzvahs. He invited them all to attend his second barmitzvah, which had been planned for June.

“The group were so moved by meeting him that they wanted to dedicate their ceremony to his memory and invite his family to share the graduation ceremony with them.”

Orielle Brodie, 11, a pupil at Hasmonean Girls, said: “William was really fun, engaging and entertaining to talk to. I really connected with him.

“It was so interesting to hear about his book and his experiences during the Holocaust. I was really looking forward to celebrating his second barmitzvah — which he was excited talking about — with him. I was sad he wasn’t able to celebrate it. I think it’s really nice and special to dedicate our graduation ceremony to him.”

Tania Kaczynski,William’s daughter, told the ceremony that the idea of second opportunities was in keeping with her father’s views. “His short time at Selig Court gave him a new lease of life, a second chance. He became an enthusiastic teenager again.

“He had always been full of life, ready to meet new challenges and keen to meet new people and exchange stories. After the loss of my dear mother, his sadness and grief struck him profoundly. Selig Court and the people he met there gave him his spirit and his life force back.

“He was a natural feminist and encouraged me and my sisters to pursue our dreams without barriers or limitations. The meeting between these young women and my old father was a meeting of bnei mitzvot, but also of the ideas he held dear.”

Her father’s first barmitzvah had been a “low key event” at the family home in Temple Fortune. “He received a pen and a pearl tie pin which is now with our uncle Eddie, William’s brother, who is here with us today. Lavish parties were not common in those days.

“In his absence, that is so acute every day, I would like to say a big mazeltov from William and from myself and all the Kaczynski family to the young women here today. He is missed by many friends old and new and I hope that he can see us now from up above.”

The Jewish Care programme is designed to inspire participants to think about their responsibility to the community.

Sessions are held in the organisation’s care homes and feature creative inter-generational activities with residents.



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